A recent Formula One fan survey published in April’s F1 Racing magazine found that an overwhelming majority of fans thought that the season should start in Australia (74.6 percent).
With that in mind (and despite the fact I am a Fernando Alonso fan), I would like to draw a line under the Bahrain GP and start 2010 again in Australia (and I don’t think I’ll be the only one!).
Vitantonio Liuzzi was first out in a very overcrowded session. The Italian set the pace with a 1:28:848, but was instantly pipped by his teammate, Adrian Sutil.
Four minutes in, Michael Schumacher was out and looking far more comfortable than he did a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, Alonso shot to pole with a 1:26:162, but Australian Mark Webber was looking extremely fast, too.
Webber went fastest only to be knocked back down again by Alonso. This was an interesting little fight to watch in Q1.
With all cars out on track, and even with the graphic down the left hand of the screen, it was difficult to copy down all the times (with all the new teams, there isn’t enough room to fit them all down the side!).
I can tell you that at the halfway point, Alonso led Webber from Schumacher and the knockout boys were: Sebastian Buemi, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Karun Chandhok, Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna.
At this mid-stage, Sebastian Vettel began to show the threat that he would later become by speeding around in very tasty times. The McLarens looked pretty good as well, with Jenson Button up to P2 at one stage and Lewis Hamilton P3.
Felipe Massa, however, was really struggling.
The Brazilian had issues throughout free practice and looked to be having trouble warming up his tires (something most of the drivers complained about today). The Ferrari man was in P14 with only seven minutes left.
He found some speed a couple of minutes later, though, and got himself up to P7. At this late stage, Vettel led Button, followed by Hamilton.
Of course, all of the new teams were heading out (although Lotus have really improved), but who would join them? At that moment, it was Sebastien Buemi.
With a few seconds left, the Torro Rosso man did enough to survive but at the expense of Vitaly Petrov, who dropped down to the danger zone and stayed there.
Q1 top three
Vettel, Rosberg, Button
Petrov, Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock, di Grassi, Senna, Chandhok
Webber led a pack of worried cars out as the sky grew greyer and the threat of rain became ever more real.
Four minutes in, the Australian set the first time of 1:24:797, but his Q1 nemesis Alonso quickly overtook the P1 spot.
At 10 minutes in, the standings were as follows:
Alonso, Webber, Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, Button, Schumacher, Liuzzi, Nico Hulkenberg, Rubens Barrichello, Hamilton, Sutil, Robert Kubica, Jaime Alguersuari and Pedro de la Rossa—though these positions were changing as I copied them down!
The worrying thing for everyone was that whilst Ferrari looked pretty quick on the faster soft tires, Red Bull were flying on the harder compound!
Down at McLaren, Button was doing a good job in P3, but where was Hamilton? The 2008 World Champion was in P17, and he strangely returned to the pits on a reasonable lap.
Perhaps he was struggling with tire pressure? One thing was for sure, he wasn’t fast enough.
With just five minutes to go the top three were: Webber, Alonso and Button. The strugglers were: Sutil, Liuzi, Kobayashi, de la Rossa, Hulkenburg, Algersuari and Hamilton!
Car No. 2 rejoined the action and added some real tension to the session.
Hamilton found some pace to get up to P7 but was he on used tires? Whatever he was on, he had no time to go back to the pits and so had to stay up whilst managing degrading tires.
Vettel flew into P2, but the real drama was further down the grid. Fast times from Sutil, Barrichello and Kubica pushed Hamilton down to P11.
The Brit had one more lap on very sick tires. However, it was all over before he had even reached sector two, as his car was finished.
Probably slightly bemused, he didn’t even finish the lap.
At the front, Vettel stole pole from his teammate, and Button was no doubt happy that he would be beating his garage partner this time round. Also worth a mention is the fact that Rosberg was still consistently faster than Schumacher.
Q2 top three
Vettel, Webber, Alonso
Hamilton, Buemi, Liuzi, de la Rossa, Hulkenburg, Kobayashi, Alguersuari
Again, Webber led them out and again rain threatened (it never came).
Alonso went initially fastest, but only one team was going to get pole. Webber soon took P1 only to be beaten by Vettel in the sister car.
The Red Bull can get heat in its tires much faster than any of the other runners, and this is perhaps just one of the reasons for their awesome speed this weekend.
After all but one of the drivers had set their first times, the positions were as follows:
Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Button, Schumacher, Barrichello, Massa, Kubica, Sutil (who set his first time with just two minutes left).
The ‘promised’ grandstand finish never came and Vettel remained the fastest guy of the day.
Webber will no doubt be a little annoyed that he couldn’t get pole at his home GP, but P2 is certainly the next best thing.
Alonso was fastest of the rest and Massa did an excellent job to get to P5. Button will be pleased with his P4 and I expect the Rosberg camp will be pleased to make it 2:0 in the Mercedes qualifying tally.
Not a spectacularly exciting qualifying session, and I fear the race will fare no better.
However, the threat of rain did make for exciting moments in the session and I believe if the wet stuff starts to fall tomorrow, we could be in store for a good one.
So if you are in Australia, please do your best rain dance tonight!
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:23.919
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:24.035
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.111
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.675
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.837
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:24.884
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:24.927
8 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:25.217
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1:25.372
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:26.036
11 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.184
12 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:25.638
13 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:25.743
14 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.747
15 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:25.748
16 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.777
17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:26.089
18 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:26.471
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:28.797
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:29.111
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.592
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.185
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:30.526
24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:30.613